West Columbia, SC (WLTX) - South Carolina's Emergency Operations Center is now fully staffed, as the state's leaders get ready for a possible encounter with Hurricane Irma.
"It's a big concern," says Derrec Becker, the spokesman for South Carolina Emergency Management. "Everybody should take this storm seriously."
The agency is at Operating Condition 3, which means a "disaster or emergency situation is likely." Op Con 3 is the third highest level, with Op Con 1 being the level that's at when there is a full on disaster.
They've also activated their Public Information Phone Systems (PIPS). People can call 866-246-0133.
Current forecasts have shifted somewhat, and are projecting a landfall in Florida, before the storm then moves northward. However, those models could shift again back to the east, creating a potential landfall in South Carolina's Lowcountry. Even if it goes where it's currently projected in Florida, the Midlands could still be at risk for high winds, heavy rains, and isolated tornadoes.
"What it's effects are going to be when it gets to South Carolina, we just don't know," Becker says. "So we're erring on the side of caution. We're asking people at home to do the same."
"The category storm shifting and changing really doesn't impact our plans very much. We're making recommendations to folks to get any potential evacuations that would begin well in advance of any tropical storm force winds. That's our goal."
He asks that people continue to make preparations for storm impacts, and people along the coast may be asked to evacuate. The governor is expected to give an update on his plans for evacuations Friday afternoon.
"There is still some time before any potential effects to reach South Carolina. That means that's your time to plan. That's your time to review your emergency plan with all of your family. Check and see what emergency supplies you happen to have, happen to need a the time and if there are any sort of warnings, that come from your local public safety officials, if they ask you to do something for your personal safety, now's the time to think about doing it. "
"What we're going to be trying to do is look at the storm today," Becker says. "A lot of preparing, a lot of planning, and hopefully South Carolina will be on the better side of all of our planning."